A tribal jirga in the restive North Waziristan region of Pakistan has endorsed a Taliban ban on polio vaccinations, linking the lifting of the ban to the ending of US drone strikes in the area, according to a media report on Thursday.
Following negotiations with officials of the local political administration, the jirga Wednesday linked the immunisation campaign to an end to US drone strikes in the tribal belt.
"Polio vaccination will be banned until drone attacks are stopped," tribal elder Qadir Khan told a gathering of over 120 elders and religious scholars in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.
Officials had pinned their last hopes of inoculating children in North Waziristan on talks with the tribesmen, which were delayed till yesterday, the last day of a nationwide anti-polio campaign.
North Waziristan administrator Siraj Ahmed Khan told The Express Tribune that he had sought to convince the tribesmen to allow the vaccinations.
"Polio is rampant in tribal areas and the government desires to prevent its spread," Khan told the meeting.
He informed the jirga that the campaign was in the interest of the tribal people and that funds for development works could be affected if the ban is not lifted.
The tribal elders told Khan that US drone strikes were a concern for both the Taliban and the tribesmen.
"Drones martyr so many children, while polio afflicts one or two out of hundreds of thousands," tribal elder Maamoor Khan was quoted as saying.
Pakistani officials have estimated that 240,000 children in North and South Waziristan will not be covered by the polio campaign due to a ban imposed by two powerful Taliban factions.